Whole Whale – by Karen Yin, illustrated by Nelleke Verhoeff. Barefoot Books, 9781646861637, 2021
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? This effort successfully combines many favorites: it’s a counting book, a look and find puzzle, and an inclusion lesson. The book opens with an empty expanse of oversized whiteness, populated by a lone spider in one corner and a playful duo (a cat and a sheep) in another; it’s time to play, the narrator shouts! More and more brightly-colored animals crowd in, filling every corner of the pages, with no respect for the gutters or the margins, echoing the refrain, “But can we fit a whole blue whale?” The rhyme scheme and meter are quite nimble and it’s fun to read aloud. The clever book design ends with everyone working together while the animals exclaim in talk bubbles “Push!” and “Let’s make room!” This naturally leads into a double gate-fold so that the pages literally grow to accommodate the whale who bursts in just in time for the party. The illustrations mimic Eric Carle, with handmade texture softening their digital origins. The animals are cartoonish and cute, but there’s also real artistry in the details: the frog’s bulgy eyes, the giraffe’s painterly splotches and the lion’s rainbow-hued mane. The end matter includes a pictorial chart of the 100 creatures and asks readers to see if they can find them all.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No.
To whom would you recommend this book? At first I thought this might be a good read aloud, but as more animals crowd in, they do grow smaller and it would become harder to see them from a distance. But possibly the fun to be had is from seeing the group grow dense as the rhyme ramps up. I can also see this becoming a family bedtime favorite, with children ages 3-6 memorizing the singsong text and studying the pages closely to find all the creatures.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: July 13, 2021